The novel’s use of multiple points of view and stream-of-consciousness narration allows several characters to reveal themselves directly. Chapters narrated by Dewey Willson and his mother disclose their inner turmoil and add dimension to their characters. David Willson’s journal entries establish the longing and self-loathing of an otherwise silent and misunderstood man. Although Mister Leland and his father do not narrate chapters, their direct thoughts are divulged in interior monologues.
The ambiguous figure of Bennett Bradshaw is revealed by his speech, which is not only formal but also rather stilted. Accused of using a fake English accent, Bennett really echoes his family’s West Indian origin. When he shifts from this speech to the more familiar dialect of Sutton, Mister Leland immediately distrusts him: “Someone else’s voice was coming out of the man’s body.” Bennett’s dual speech pattern suggests that he is at home neither in the intellectual world of New York nor in the rural South. Although the novel centers on the actions of Tucker Caliban, no clear protagonist appears. Tucker is observed only through the eyes of other characters or through their memories. Consequently, Tucker is always seen, a small and determined figure, from a distance that cannot be traversed. He, like the African, becomes almost a figure of legend.
In fact, all viewpoint characters in the novel are white. African American characters are...
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